Pat White Follows Heart Back to Football - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Pat White Follows Heart Back to Football

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MORGANTOWN -

Sometimes when you get lost, it's best to retrace your steps back to the beginning.

For Pat White, those steps landed him in Morgantown on Thursday, back in the same indoor facility that he worked out in four years ago, again tossing footballs to receivers who once lined up alongside him in a West Virginia uniform.

Four years ago, White was a hot commodity. He had just wrapped up a senior season and a Senior Bowl performance that allowed his stock to rise in the eyes of many NFL coaches and general managers and his skill set as the all-time leading rusher among college quarterbacks intrigued the offensive minds in the game.

Now, many of those minds have forgotten about White and when he worked out in his second pro day as he attempts to make a comeback in the league, most of them had already left the building.

Still, he says he possesses a desire to return to the game that cannot be deterred by something like a small audience.

"I was just following my heart," White said. "When I was with the [Miami] Dolphins, I selfishly tried to walk away from the game, which in turn got me cut because of factors affecting me outside the field. I let that play a part in what I did on the field and it showed, so I guess I tried to run from myself, had nowhere to go and my heart brought me right back to the game of football. I'm going to do it until the day I die."

Back then, White was a second round draft choice of the Dolphins and was waiting in the wings as a third-string quarterback while getting a few reps here and there in a wildcat formation. When he was asked to come in and take significant snaps in the season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he was knocked out of the game by Ike Taylor and never played another down of football.

He admits that the hit from Taylor made him question a lot of things and when he didn't make it to camp on time the following season due to "personal issues," he said goodbye to the game.

In those years away from football, White told himself and anyone who asked that he had no interest in playing again. He wanted to save his body and his mind and he wanted to focus on something other than sports. Baseball, too, was out of the question for the talented athlete.

But when you hear him speak now, it's clear that he was telling himself those things in an effort to make himself believe, and not because it was actually the truth.

"I couldn't watch football for about a year and a half, two years," White admitted. "It was hard for me to watch and I knew the first time I turned on the TV and was able to watch a game, that the passion was still in me, that fire was still there, so things start rolling and brought me here."

Things rolling included an opportunity to work at Whitfield Academy with George Whitfield, a quarterback specialist who has trained the likes of Andrew Luck and Cam Newton before taking on White in San Diego over the past month.

White was surprised to hear from Whitfield mostly positive remarks early on in the process as the QB guru told him he felt like he had a live arm and solid footwork. From that point on, he put on about 10 pounds, tipping the scales at 208 pounds these days, and continued to work.

It came naturally to him, which is something he had to keep reminding himself when he first got to the NFL.

"I knew it would be hard. It was just not as difficult as it seemed to be," he said. "It's the game of football. It's not much different than when you play as a 10-year-old, 12-year-old. The game's a lot faster, the players are a lot smarter, but it's still the same game."

And the game he mastered at the college level has translated well to the pro ranks since he left football behind. Quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are finding success with their feet as much as with their arm and NFL defenses have yet to completely figure out a scheme that many felt would never make it beyond college.

"I guess a lot of people are saying I was ahead of my time. I'll just say I wasn't patient enough for my time," said White. "Once again, my heart brought me back to the game of football even though I tried my hardest to run from it. It's what I love and what I'm going to do or be around until the day they put me six feet under."

The passion is there. The athleticism may very well still be there and the leadership and other qualities that made White so successful as a Mountaineer could have returned as well. But if he is to make a comeback, there must be interest from the other side of the equation.

The Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos have a contract offer on the table, White says, but he asked to first explore his options with the NFL.

"I'm pretty certain I'll be in somebody's uniform next year, whether it's in the NFL or Canadian league, so I'm excited about that," he said.

One factor that many believe could be pivotal to his potential return to professional ball is his willingness to play a position other than quarterback. When White was asked that question point blank on Thursday, he paused, took a deep breath and said:

"I'd take any opportunity I can get right now. I just want to be back in the league. But my heart is behind the center, so I feel like that's where I best fit and that's where I'm going to give 115 percent effort."

He first had to convince himself. Now, White must prove all over again that he is worth taking a chance on.  

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